Mind The Heavy Rains, Pilot Cautions Helicopter Operators Out On Mission

Officials inspecting the Airbus helicopter H125-B3E that crashed at the Subang Airport on March 24, 2021.

PETALING JAYA, Feb 29 – For pilot Captain H.S.Dharan or known as Sasi, the rainy season brings back some horrific memories; that of the helicopter he was flying crashing at the Subang Airport in March last year.

Pilot Capt H.S.Dharan says they were lucky to have survived and that If the crash had taken place from a level any higher, it could have been fatal.

Despite the severity of the crash, and the serious injuries suffered, Sasi, the other pilot  and three clients on board the Airbus helicopter H125-B3E were fortunately spared their lives.

Recalling the crash at the airport on March 24 last year, Sasi said the return flight from Terengganu was on March 23rd, but they were caught in a bad weather and could not continue the flight and had to land on a school field in Sungai Lembing, Pahang.

“We waited for a while but decided not to fly when the weather remained bad. The rain was horrendous and it was just pouring non-stop. We eventually stayed at a rest house in Sungai Lembing. The rain went on throughout the night.

“Next morning, before we got ready to fly back, we called in three different Airbus engineers to inform them of the situation and that the copter had been exposed to extremely heavy rain conditions. We were told to carry out a couple of checks.

“We carried out a few more checks before starting the helicopter. There was a lot of water gushing from the tail rotor when we moved it. I also monitored a bit when the other pilot started the engine. The tail rotor seemed fine. I got into the co-pilot seat and we took off.

“Then I took over and flew the copter. All seemed fine except that the pedestal that controls the tail rotor seemed sticky and I mentioned it to the other pilot. He too agreed, saying “something not right”.

“Within 55 minutes, we arrived at the Subang Airport. This was at about 9:45am. But as we were coming down and at almost 15 feet above ground and hovering, the tail started spinning, and the next thing we lost control and the helicopter ended up crashing at the point where we were supposed to land.”

Sasi, who was among the two with more serious injuries in the crash, regained consciousness after couple of minutes. The other three had minor injuries and one had fractures on his leg.

“We were lucky to have survived. If the crash had taken place from a level any higher, it could have been fatal,” said Sasi.

Asked on his thoughts just before the crash, he said the whole thing took place so fast and he remembers hoping for the safety of everyone.

The whole incident was caught on camera and it was also fortunate that the crash took place at an airport, he said.

An investigation carried out by Air Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB).

Sasi said, the crash underlined one issue – that of possible danger of water ingression to parts of a helicopter when exposed to too much rain.

“While helicopters can fly in the rain, extreme weather with lightning and thunder is generally avoided but a stationary helicopter exposed to excessive rainwater could pose a different problem altogether,” he said.

Sasi, who is the CEO of Alaris Aerospace Systems Sdn Bhd, also runs a flying club that supports Private Pilot License courses.

He also hoped the crash would bring about further improvement in addressing the issue of water ingression by Airbus Helicopters.

“It is very important for those flying helicopters during this rainy season, to take extra precaution to ensure that their helicopters are not overly exposed to rain. Helicopters are usually the choice when carrying out rescue mission because of their flexibility and ability to land in a smaller space, unlike planes. Hence, during the monsoon season, it would be crucial for helicopters to be kept in optimum condition.”

Asked on how he felt about flying a helicopter again, he said he has already returned to flying planes, but was not flying any helicopter for now.